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Democrats to redraft virus relief in bid to restart talks

Democrats are going back to the drawing board on a huge virus relief bill

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. speaks during a news conference Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. speaks during a news conference Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) Photo Gallery

WASHINGTON — House Democrats are going back to the drawing board on a huge COVID-19 relief bill, paring back the measure in an attempt to jump-start negotiations with the Trump administration.

The Democratic-controlled chamber could also pass the $2 trillion-plus measure next week if talks fall through to demonstrate that the party isn’t giving up on passing virus relief before the election.

The chamber passed a $3.4 trillion rescue measure in May but Republicans dismissed the measure as bloated and unrealistic. Even as Democrats cut their ambitions to $2.2 trillion or so, Senate Republicans have focused on a much smaller rescue package in the $650 billion to $1 trillion range.

An aide familiar with the leadership discussions and authorized to characterize them said the new bill would total about $2.4 trillion and is likely to contain additional relief for the airline and restaurant sectors, which have been especially slammed by slumps in business from the virus.

“We’re trying to figure out how to move a negotiation forward because we believe the American people need some help. And so we’re going to try,” said Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass. “Our chairs are looking at everything again and the hope is that we can come up with something.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., commissioned the effort, which caused a buzz in Washington’s lobbying industry — and whose news appeared to briefly spike the stock market — even as hopes for a deal between the Democratic-controlled House, the GOP-held Senate, and the White House still seem to be a long shot.

Recent talks between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have gone nowhere, but neither side wants to officially give up.

Republican reaction was cool, especially at the prospect of a partisan floor vote if the effort fails to spark constructive talks.

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